Beyond Diabetes Awareness: Improving What We Eat for Overall Health

Nine out of 10 Americans aren’t eating their fruits and veggies, so we need to do better. Period. And by making changes in what we eat, we improve our health overall. Sure, we’re talking about Diabetes Awareness this month, but improvements in how we eat also help with other chronic health conditions.

I often ask (when I’m giving a presentation) – “What is the one thing you can change to improve how you feel?” Start with one change. Stay consistent. Then work on other changes you need to make.

The following are just a few suggestions when it comes to food and changes to make. Sure, there are others. But these are where I often start with people on where to change/improve.

  • Aim to make 1/2 of your grains whole. Rolled oats in the morning, whole-wheat pasta at lunch and white rice at dinner. 1/2 of the grains in that example are whole. Find ways you can include whole grains vs refined grains. Try a new grain – quinoa, farro, buckwheat – there are so many out there, there’s bound to be one you like and enjoy and can switch out a refined grain for a whole grain.  
  • Make 1/2 your plate non-starchy veggies. Alternatively, as I like to say, use your dinner plate for all of your veggies (and your salad plate for your grain and protein). The point is we need to eat more veggies. Not only for their vitamins and minerals, but for their FIBER. Experiment. Try a new veggie three different ways. Find the way you like to eat it. And rather than focusing on the vegetables you ‘don’t like’ focus on the ones you do like.  And keep adding on to that.
  • FIBER. I know I mentioned it in the last bullet point, but we don’t talk enough about FIBER (and it deserves its own mention). Find ways to include more fiber. Fiber comes from plants and that’s why the movement to “eat more plants” and “plant-based” is so popular right now. Fiber has many benefits. While we all know it helps you go to the bathroom, it also helps lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, stabilize blood sugar levels, keep you fuller longer, and can even help reduce the risk for certain cancers. Veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds – aim to include more of these foods so you’re able to get your daily dose of fiber. 
  • Eliminate sugary beverages. First, know how much added sugar you’re taking in from these drinks and begin to cut back, with the intent to have no sugary beverages. Recommendations on added sugar/day (not just from beverages, but also food) is 6 teaspoons/day for women and children and 9 teaspoons/day for men.  Once we know how much we’re either adding in (tea or coffee) and possibly drinking, we can begin to cut back. 

About the author:

Amy Kimberlain is a registered dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and Care Specialist (CDCES) with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida. Ms. Kimberlain has 20 years of experience in nutrition and dietetics. Active in the community, she has contributed her expertise to various public health initiatives, including childhood obesity, diabetes and family health. Ms. Kimberlain is an academy media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. She earned bachelor’s degrees in nutrition and Spanish from Florida State University. She is also an avid runner and registered yoga teacher.

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